Trip On A Small Black Chain

I know I don’t write actual reviews much, but when I do I try and make them interesting. This time I’m focusing primarily on a couple of ‘Chill Wave’ artists as well as a new solo act and some instrumentalists. Its going to get interesting, so lets get started…

Small Black: New Chain– Small Black’s first EP was a little mucky but showed a lot of promise in the early going. Once they showed a little more of themselves on their split with Washed Out, I started to get a bit more excited. Now that they’ve released an appropriate full-length, we’re able to see what they’re really made of and the result is quite interesting. Chill Wave(though mostly a weak term) is easy to spot once you’ve heard it and Small Black fits it perfectly. One part beats, one part reverb and 3 parts synthesizer is the formula that this record lives by and artfully walks the fence on. Compared to their first EP, this release is much more ambitious and gives a clearer view… clearer in the sense that its easier to distinguish their ideas from each other. The problem with their EP was an overuse of reverb to a point of serious excess. I loved their ideas, as difficult as they were to make out, but I knew there was a chance that they’d clear it up more and stop drowning out their good ideas, basically. And thats precisely what they’ve done on New Chain and the results are still very Small Black but in an easier-to-understand package…8.7/10

Photojournalist

Laetitia Sadier: The Trip– New Stereolab! Well, not really. If you know anything about Stereolab at all, you’ll know that Laetitia Sadier was once their angelic-voiced lead singer for their storied music career. Now that Stereolab is no more, shes striking out on her own with her newest project: Herself. If you were anticipating this deviating somewhat from Stereolab, you’d be entirely mistaken. In fact, this almost sounds like a Stereolab ‘greatest hits’ record at almost every turn. I’m not sure if some of the players were from her former project, but everything from the guitar hooks to the subtle-yet-visible organs to her unmistakable vocal style are very much akin to early Stereolab… we’re talking Sound-Dust minus the horns. So, Sadier’s new project is somewhat of a stripped-down version of her aforementioned band, but not by much. And again, the fact that I casually mentioned that this was like a ‘greatest hits’ album wasn’t a coincidence. Every single track on this record is really remarkable. Nearly any song would be a worthy single. In closing, Stereolab who? 9.4/10

Natural Child

Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner– One of Ghostly International’s newest additions is UK producer, Gold Panda. Filled with plenty of beat-driven electronic melodies, Gold Panda’s full-length debut is an easy record to walk into. I don’t know how often I use this, but as far as electronic music goes, this is really accessible. Its a very smooth LP with plenty of easy transitions and highlighted with bouncy beats. An absence of vocals never really was an issue at any point for me because Mr. Panda always keeps things moving. And movement is key on this record as it is with most instrumental electronic music because too much or too little movement or an inconsistent balance of faster-paced to slower-paced songs is a very fine line that is easy to stray from. This record has peaks and valleys in all the right places and thats always a great thing to come across. Also, its actually very appropriate that this type of record came out at this time of year because this is typically what I like to listen-to during the colder months of the year. So good timing mixed with excellent beats and interesting melodies makes this one of my favorites as of late… 8.8/10

You

MillionYoung: Be So True EPMillionYoung is yet another ‘Chill Wave’ artist thats come on the scene in the last year, but there are a couple of things that make them a bit more distinct than your average run-of-the-mill genre artist. Yes, they are very much entrenched in their respective genre, but their frequent and creative use of guitar and their vocals make them stand-outs. This is also what sort of ruined this EP for me in some instances. Their first EP, Sunndreamm, was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. Be So True‘s vocals tend to go flat from time to time and they ruined otherwise perfectly great songs… which is really too bad because the music itself could be something really special if they could just figure out how to polish them with better vocal tracks. Don’t get me wrong, the whole record isn’t a big flat mess. It only happens occasionally, but it still happens. So while I’m definitely reluctant to score this nearly perfectly, it still deserves a high-ranking with deductions for lack of polish…8.0/10

Cynthia

Del Rey: Immemorial– Not many people know who Del Rey is and thats partly because of their genre: Post-Rock Instrumentalism… I know, it sounds like a class you sleepwalked through in grad school. While it may not be popular, Del Rey do it better than almost anyone. I’ve been following these guys for a few years now, and they’ve definitely had their highs and lows. Their most notable high being their 2003 release, Darkness and Distance, and their most notable low being the follow up to that, A Pyramid For The Living in 2006. While Darkness and Distance really demonstrated an innovative approach to instrumental rock incorporating synthesizers and even double-drummers at times, A Pyramid For The Living fell flat by turning good ideas into long, droning monstrosities that became less compelling the longer they went on and then replicating that 5 more times to finish out the album. So when I saw that 3 or 4 of the songs lasted around the 10-minute mark on Immemorial, you could imagine my skepticism. However, this is where they surprised me. Not only did they incorporate all of the things that made them an interesting band to begin with, the long times on those tracks were barely noticeable because they weren’t loud droning and repetitive. Its almost like a symphony at times with plenty of tempo changes and dramatic crescendos that really keep your attention. I’m not entirely sure if it was written to tell a story, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to write one to accompany it. Overall, this is their best record in 6 years, which if you’re counting is a hell of a long time… 9.5/10

Innumeracy